This post contains spoilers for Severance.
In a world full of waves and waves of content, shows like Severance feel special. Part sci-fi mystery, part anti-capitalist takedown, the series plays with both nuance and caricatures with ease. But it’s also the type of show that leaves us with endless questions and a finale that most certainly needs some explanation. Let’s talk about it!
We kick off the Season 1 finale with Dylan (Zach Cherry) enacting the overtime protocol so Helly (Britt Lower), Irving (John Turturro) and Mark (Adam Scott) can take over their bodies while outside of the facility to try to get a glimpse of their lives and and gather hints as to what Lumon may be up to. This moment leads to a rollercoaster of reveals, including the fact that Helly is actually Helena Eagan, descendant of company founder Kier Eagan; Irving is investigating Lumon on his own; and Mark’s innie now knows that his dead wife may not be as gone as he thought.
All of this is followed by what is perhaps the most aggressive cliffhanger in the last five years. Helly manages to out Lumon in front of the attendees of the very gala who Helena (her outie) was meant to convince severance is the Best Thing Ever™, and Mark just barely manages to scream out a “she’s alive” before Dylan is stopped and the overtime protocol ends. Irving’s cliffhanger moment is much smaller scale, but infinitely more devastating than that of his counterparts: he sees that Burt is alive, well, and happy, but he still needs to talk to him. The protocol ends just before Burt opens the door. Does it matter in the grand scheme of things? Probably not. But we’re real bummed out for you, buddy!
Mark and Helly, however, may have just blown the roof off the series. The overtime protocol ending may have stopped them both before they could get any further in their reveals, but they still managed to get some pretty important key phrases out before their outies took over again. Devon (Jen Tullock) may have just found her baby after fearing that Mrs. Cobel (Patricia Arquette) had done something terrible, but Mark is still clutching the picture of Jemma (aka Ms. Casey, played by Dichen Lachman) when he screams “she’s alive” at his sister. Seems fair to assume that some context clues will come into play there in Season 2. As for Helly, what’s Lumon PR wonk Natalie (Sydney Cole Alexander) gonna do? Walk out in front of the crowd and say it was all a joke?
Obviously, there’s a ton to unpack here. Let’s dive into the biggest questions the Severance Season 1 finale left us with.
How Is Mark’s Dead Wife Jemma Still Working at Lumon?
Severance’s finale (and penultimate episode) left us with a ton of shocking moments, but Jemma’s apparent survival takes the cake. We don’t know why and we don’t know how, but Mark’s beloved — the very woman whose death resulted in Mark deciding to join Lumon and be severed — appears to still be alive and kickin’ at the company he’s trying to take down.
Logistically, this feels like the type of story angle that will fray into a thousand unanswered and complicated threads if you pick at it too much. But, that’s what they get for leaving us with a cliffhanger the way they did. Jemma (innie name Ms. Casey) can’t have been a previous employee who was severed before her accident, as her body would still need to be present to activate the innie persona. This could tie into some of the Kier Eagan theories we’ll talk about later, but there’s also the theory that Ms. Casey isn’t a person at all and is instead a robot created to do Lumon’s bidding.
Then again, why not simply reprogram her if she’s just a robot? There’s plenty of pomp and circumstance to her departure, so “android” feels like it would end up being a pretty underwhelming reveal.
So far, all we know is that Ms. Casey has Jemma’s face, she is either severed, has amnesia, or isn’t Jemma at all, and she’s currently hanging out somewhere in a closet at Lumon. Oh, and that Mark got enough out to his sister for both his innie and his outie to know that the death that destroyed him apparently didn’t happen.
What Made Helly’s Outie Decide to Sacrifice Part of Her Life for Lumon?
We heard enough from Helena Eagan’s recorded speeches at the gala to know that she sees it as kind of a cool project. But why? As a member of the Eagan family, Helena is likely set for life with little need to work. Why sacrifice eight hours of her life every day to go work as a random coder at her family business?
We’ve only seen Helena on screens at various moments throughout the first season. She tells Helly ‘no’ a few times by way of company crony Milchick when she tries to quit, with her final denial coming in video form, and we see her documentary recordings playing throughout the gala Helly attends in the finale. While her lineage helps explain her cruelty to her innie, it does nothing to help us understand why she made the decision to undergo the procedure. In fact, she quips about her father wanting her to say something about “loyalty to the family,” but that’s not her motivator.
What Is the Deal With Kier Eagan and His Family?
In a series full of question marks, Kier Eagan — founder of Lumon — and the rest of the Eagan family are perhaps the biggest. Fans have had several theories as we’ve learned more about the company’s strange origins, but Season 1 gave us nothing definitive on the founder and why his employees are apparent cult members. (Mrs. Cobel’s shrine, anyone?)
Though Kier Eagan is assumed dead, his progeny is alive and well. We meet Helena’s father in the finale, but his strange, detached behavior lends credence to the prevailing fan theory that Kier’s body may be alive somewhere and that his consciousness is simply transferred from CEO to CEO. As it stands, it seems that the leaders of the company have all been Kier’s descendants.
Whether he’s housing Kier’s mind or not, there’s definitely something going on with Helena’s father. When he meets with his daughter before her speech, there’s something… off about him. In addition to his slow, detached speech, there are some key words in his sentences that leave you with strong “WTF?” vibes.
“I cried in my bed when they told me what she tried to do to you,” he mentions in reference to Helly trying to hang herself in the elevator. (Why are you just hanging out in bed, buddy? What’s going on there?) He then continues, “One day you’ll sit with me at my revolving.” (What’s a revolving? Is it a ritual?) And then, finally, “they’ll all be Kier’s children,” he says of the severed.
Ok, weirdo dad man.
WTF Is Lumon Doing?
The MDR Department (consisting of Mark and his team) have no idea what the actual result of their work is. All they know is that they need to box the “scary numbers.” There’s a whole range of theories, spanning from the extreme — Kier Eagan is alive and the numbers are actually deadly cells that the MDR team is keeping at bay — to ideas much more simple (and likely) — they’re not actually doing anything, Lumon just needs them in the building.
Then again, the simpler theory begs the question: why are their quotas so important if the company just needs them on the premises? Technically, what they’re doing could have nothing to do with Kier. But Lumon’s strong cult-vibes make it seem likely that at least part of the situation has to do with the Eagan family.
Then there are the goats. Don’t get us started on the goats. (We don’t have any theories about the goats.)
Who Is the Board?
Another big unknown in the Severance conversation is The Board. So far, Natalie has been our only connection to them outside of the disembodied voice that speaks to Mrs. Cobel from the call box. But how much connection does she actually have? After all, in Mark’s first meeting with Cobel in the beginning of the series, she makes it seem like she has a direct line to the mysterious team behind Lumon. Perhaps we’ll learn in time that Natalie isn’t as connected as she seems.
For now, though, we can confirm that she has a strong relationship with the Eagan family. She’s connected with Helena, giving her talking points before she goes on stage, completely unaware that it’s actually the innie persona, Helly. She’s also close enough with Helena’s father to help him find his daughter before the big speech.
Perhaps there is no board! Maybe Natalie is secretly the one calling all of the shots and the disembodied voice was a backup for when someone questions her decisions! We’ll let you know when Season 2 arrives so we can all find out together.
What’s the Deal With Mrs. Cobel?
Harmony Cobel spent the latter half of this season having a string of no good very bad days. Though she was fired from Lumon for taking matters into her own hands with all the unsevered business (and almost losing the boss’ daughter to suicide on company time), an unexpected visit from Mark prompts her to keep her investigation open by way of creeping on Ricken’s book reading. And, unfortunately for both versions of Mark, he just so happens to be hugging Cobel when the overtime protocol is enacted and his innie takes over his outie. (Nope, it’ll never not sound weird.)
Though she’s currently fired, it seems likely that Lumon will have no choice but to give her job back after she tries to save them from Helly outing the company. Cobel was unsuccessful in this regard, but that’s more due to Natalie’s misgivings than it is Cobel not doing everything in her power to protect the company. And, even if that’s not enough, how are you gonna let a woman with that much knowledge run amok throughout your town? Cobel is clearly a Kier True Believer, but how long will she take being boxed out laying down?
How Is Irving's Outie Investigating Lumon?
After the overtime protocol was enacted by Dylan, we get some unexpected insight into Irving’s life. Helena may have been the bigger reveal, but Irving’s outie has plenty of secrets of his own. Most notably: he is investigating Lumon.
While we learn a lot more about his life in these few moments, this isn’t the first time we’ve met the outside version of Irving. He keeps painting the same hallway over and over again, but all we know is that it’s the path to the elevator to exit Lumon. At first, it was assumed that this was the series revealing that severed workers could tap into their innie’s memories. But the investigation revelation opens a whole new can of worms.
We know that Irving has been severed the longest, and that there was a lawsuit against Lumon. Is it possible that severance isn’t as permanent as they think and Irving’s outie is starting to have flashes of what he sees inside? Or perhaps he worked for the company prior to severance and is doing everything he can to ensure that he remembers what few details he has left. But to what end? He seems to know something, but we don’t get access to that information. All we know is that Innie Irving is on a mission to find Burt, and that we’re all devastated by the outcome.
Whose Side Is Milchick On? Is He Working With Regabhi?
Milchick (Tramell Tillman) has always been one of the most curious players in the whole Lumon chess match. Yet, he still managed to blow the lid off of everyone’s original theories when he met with Dylan on the outside and introduced viewers to the overtime protocol. In their meeting, it seemed like Milchick may be on the side of the workers. But, after getting the call from Cobel warning them of the MDR Department’s plan, Milchick is adamant about stopping them.
One possible explanation could be that Milchick is working with Regabhi (she’s the gal who killed Mr. Graner after he hunted her down for unsevering Petey). When Regabhi finally has the chance to get Mark alone and explain Petey’s situation, she makes it clear that their mission is very delicate. They have to be calculating and precise. Perhaps Milchick’s reaction is a combination of knowing that he’s being watched and understanding that the MDR Department may have just blown their entire operation.
Then again, maybe he really is just a robot as some fans have speculated!
What about you? Severance is the kind of show that lends itself to endless theories across the board. What are yours? Sound off in the comments!